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Jan 11 2019

Turkey expanding aggressive foreign policy into Libya - analysts

Turkey is advancing an aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa, with Libya being President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s potential next focus, according to two analysts.

Turkey’s involvement in Libya became an issue for some when Libyan customs authorities at the Port of Khoms seized 3,000 Turkish-made guns and ammunition on Dec. 17 and 18, 2018.

More interceptions of Turkish weapons were made this month, conservative columnist Michael Rubin wrote in National Interest on Friday.

“With every shipment intercepted, Ankara’s pleads of ignorance become increasingly implausible,” said Rubin. “A recent assassination attempt on the primary Libyan investigator of the shipments suggests there remains much to hide,” he added.

Rubin suggests that Erdoğan may be seeking an Islamist government in Libya to win a partner, after losing Egypt when Abdul el-Sisi overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood, an ally of his government.

“An Islamist Libya could provide refuge for groups dedicated to undercutting Egypt’s stability and returning Islamists to power,” Rubin wrote.

Besides, Libya continues to be divided due to its civil war. The country split between two governments that claim power, while Islamic groups also operate in the margins, according to Jerusalem Post.

The Islamic State’s presence has been diminished since it was driven out of major cities, and Erdoğan wants to expand Turkey’s influence in the area, a former Israeli diplomat, Zvi Mazel, wrote on Jan. 7 in the Jerusalem Post. Mazel said Erdoğan wants to expand Turkey’s influence in the area.

“Turkey is now vigorously pursuing its political and/or military penetration in the most sensitive parts of the region – from Syria and Iraq to Somalia and Sudan in Red Sea, and Qatar in the Persian Gulf, for the greater glory of its leader and the supremacy of Islam,” Mazel stated.

The refugee crisis has strengthened Ankara’s hand when dealing with Europe, using the threat of allowing Muslim refugees into Europe to extort concessions.

“Ankara has agreed to stop the flow of refugees trying to reach Europe from Islamic countries – in exchange for five billion dollars,” Mazel wrote. “It is working so far. A weak Europe, helpless to deal with the chaos in the Middle East, is not ready to address Turkish aggressive behaviour.”

He continued that Erdoğan would be “even freer to act” in the region with the United States decreasing its involvement.

Michael Rubin also wrote that Turkey today is akin to Saudi Arabia before September 11, 2001, “a sponsor of radicalism on a global scale.”

“While U.S. authorities castigate Iran for its illegal weapons shipments undercutting sovereignty and stability in countries like Lebanon and Yemen, Turkey is doing much the same thing, and for similar goals,” wrote the neoconservative scholar, who works at the American Enterprise Institute.